The Orthodox Have Come of Age

Dr. Joseph Frager,

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צילום: ערוץ 7
Dr. Joseph Frager
The writer is a leading American pro-Israel activist who sponsors and coordinates many Zionist events. He is clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine (Gastroenterology & Liver Diseases) at the Einstein School of Medicine as well as a practicing physician.

With President Trump's stunning victory on November 8, 2016 a new political calculus was set in motion in the United States.

Many groups can lay claim to President Trump's defeat of Hilary Clinton. Evangelicals who represented 26% of the electorate, blue collar workers, disenfranchised Middle America, the silent majority, and last but not least, Orthodox Jews. Because Orthodox Jews live in key swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, they have become the focus  of outreach groups from both parties. On  Sept. 28th, 2016 an article which was quite prophetic appeared in Tablet Magazine by Armin Rosen reporting that Donald Trump was likely to win the Orthodox vote. On Sept. 20, 2017 an article appeared by Steve Lipman in the Jewish Week entitled, "Orthodox Jews Emerging as Trump's Truest Believers".

The statistics are impressive. President Trump got 28% of the Jewish Vote. Of this total over 80% were Orthodox Jews. Since President Trump only won by 112,911 votes in Florida and by only 44,241 votes in Pennsylvania, there is no doubt that the Orthodox Vote was helpful and that the Orthodox Voting Bloc can indeed sway an election one way or the other. This is even more evident in Michigan where President Trump only won by 10,700 votes. The Jewish population of Florida is 654,860. Although the Pew study of 2013 indicated that the Orthodox only represented 10% of the Jewish population in America, this can be very misleading because a state like Florida probably has closer to at least 20% Orthodox.  The Orthodox according to Pew demographic measures, are growing both in absolute number and as a percentage of the U.S.

Jewish Community with half of Orthodox Jewish families having more than four children compared to the average of 1.7 in the Non-Orthodox population (which means that the Non-Orthodox population is actually in decline). Hence the likelihood that the Orthodox represent more than 20% of the Jewish Population in key states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

This would mean in real terms that the Orthodox who voted in the 2016 election would bring 125,000 votes to the table in Florida which is more than enough to have made the difference. Similarly, it would mean that close to 60,000 Orthodox Jews voted for President Trump in Pennsylvania more than enough to have made the difference. President Trump won Ohio by 447, 841 votes. The race could have been a lot closer here and the 30,000 Orthodox votes could have been more of a factor. In Michigan where 16,000 Orthodox Jews voted for President Trump, a much larger role in his victory could be seen.

I am basing my Jewish population statistics on work by Sheshkin and Dashefsky in the Jewish Yearbook of 2016. The Orthodox now represent a formidable voting bloc and might have been a factor in the commutation of the sentence of Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin. The President has gotten the message loud and clear. In contrast to President Obama who depended upon the Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism for both his "moral" and financial support, President Trump now gets his boost from the Orthodox.

The Orthodox have supported the President through thick and thin. When the Reform and Conservative movements boycotted the traditional phone call before the High Holidays the Orthodox were there. When the President declared Jerusalem the eternal capital of Israel , the Reform abdicated any responsible position by initially criticizing the President. The Orthodox were there in droves to congratulate him. Clearly, the Orthodox have come of age.